Happy July 3rd! Today is the Tacoma Rainiers annual Fireworks Extravaganza, which is usually our biggest game of the year in terms of attendance. A large crowd is expected tonight, of course, although we are keeping an eye on the weather. There is a chance we could have some rain drops tonight, but hopefully nothing that will delay the game. The game is on, of course.
The Rainiers will be basking in the afterglow of one of their most fun games of the season last night, a game that will forever been known as The Brian O’Keefe Game. O’Keefe was pretty much the Rainiers entire offense in a 5-4 ten-inning win over Salt Lake last night.
It started in the very first inning. Making the only non-O’Keefe contribution to the Rainiers offense for the entire game, Alex Blandino hit a double. With two outs in the inning, O’Keefe smashed a line drive two-run homer to the R Yard deck in left field, giving the Rainiers a 2-0 lead.
Things soon settled into the same pattern as the previous three games of the series: Salt Lake’s starting pitcher got into a groove, and the Bees took the lead. Salt Lake led 4-2 when we reached the bottom of the sixth inning.
O’Keefe struck again in the sixth, pulling a monstrous solo homer to left field, cutting the deficit to 4-3. His first two home runs came against Salt Lake starter Cesar Valdez, who has been one of the top pitchers in the PCL this season. Valdez had allowed only three home runs the entire season coming into the game, and O’Keefe took him deep twice.
In the bottom of the eighth inning O’Keefe’s spot came around again, with the Rainiers still trailing 4-3. Now rehabilitating Angels reliever Austin Warren was on the mound for Salt Lake, and O’Keefe took him deep to tie the game. This homer was an opposite field fly ball to right.
It was the first three-homer game of O’Keefe’s professional career, and the first by a Tacoma Rainiers player since June 27, 2015 when Justin Ruggiano went deep three times against El Paso.
For the third time in the last four days, we reached extra innings. Once again the Rainiers won in the tenth – and once again, it was O’Keefe who was at the plate.
With Jarred Kelenic placed at second base as the automatic runner to start the tenth inning, O’Keefe was due up third. Two outs later, Kelenic was at third base and the game was in O’Keefe’s hands.
No home run was required to win the game. O’Keefe calmly stroked a line drive single to center field off Bees reliever Kyle Barraclough, scoring Kelenic and giving Tacoma the 5-4 win.
Tacoma’s catcher finished the game by going 4-for-5, with three home runs, three runs scored, and five runs batted in. He was the entire offense – and he was a major contributor on the defensive side, too, catching all ten innings and calling the pitches.
The Rainiers lead the series, three games to two, going into the final game tonight. All three of the Rainiers wins in this series have come in extra innings. Here’s your fun fact of the day: the Rainiers have won 14 home games this season, and seven of them have come on walk-offs.
After tonight’s game, the Rainiers are traveling old-school PCL style, waking up at 3:00 AM to head to SeaTac and take the first flight of the day to Reno – and there is no morning direct flight because of the holiday, so we’re going on a multi-airport adventure. We have our first Monday game of the season tomorrow, a 6:35 game at Reno where the Aces will have a packed house for their big fireworks show. The team can rest afterwards, as Tuesday is the off day this week.
The early travel day with a game that night is going to be eye-opening for the younger players who didn’t play Triple-A in 2019 or earlier. We used to do this every four days, and now it’s once a season! I expect to overhear some rather amusing complaining.
YESTERDAY: Tacoma catcher Brian O’Keefe hit three home runs before connecting for the game-winning RBI single in the tenth inning as the Rainiers beat Salt Lake, 5-4. O’Keefe finished the game 4-for-5 with all five RBI. It was the first three-homer game for Tacoma since Justin Ruggiano in 2015. Reliever Matt Koch earned the win by stranding the automatic runner in the top of the tenth – the second time he has done that this week.
TODAY: Salt Lake Bees (36-41) at Tacoma Rainiers (31-45), 6:05.
OPPONENT AFFILIATION: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
OPPOSING MANAGER: Lou Marson.
SEASON SERIES: Salt Lake leads, 11-9.
PITCHERS: LHP Kenny Rosenberg (2-2, 2.45) at RHP Konner Wade (2-3, 6.54)
ROSTER MOVES: We haven’t had a roster move in a couple days, but Mariners manager Scott Servais told reporters this morning that Kyle Lewis is set to begin a rehabilitation assignment for Tacoma, perhaps as early as today. I guess we’ll just wait and see if he’s in the lineup tonight.
HOT HITTERS: Jarred Kelenic had his eight-game hitting streak come to an end last night… Alex Blandino has reached base safely in 13 straight games, and 19 of his last 20… Erick Mejia drove in the winning run in extra innings in back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday… Forrest Wall has reached base safely in 14 straight games… Brian O’Keefe has a four-game hitting streak.
OPPONENT NEWS: Salt Lake entered the series having won two straight games, prior to that they had lost 11 of 12 including a six-game sweep in Albuquerque… infielder Kean Wong has a nine-game hitting streak, with 16 hits and seven RBI… Magneuris Sierra hit .326 in the month of June, and he has a seven-game hitting streak… the Bees have three former Rainiers in their bullpen: Jonathan Aro, Brian Moran, and Zack Weiss. Former Rainiers outfielder Dillon Thomas rejoined Salt Lake on Wednesday.
BROADCAST: All games will be broadcast free on a live audio stream which is available right here.
Unfortunately, there is no traditional terrestrial radio station carrying the games at this time.
PCL SCOREBOARD: Follow all league games in real-time with links to broadcasts and Gameday screens right here.
- Brian O’Keefe‘s performance earned a write-up from MiLB.com.
- The Mariners edged Oakland yesterday, 2-1, and go for a series win today.
- Larry Stone has a column on how impressive the Mariners starting rotation has been this year.
- Julio Rodriguez won the AL Rookie of the Month award for the second straight month.